January 10, 2024

The Value of Training


Differing standards imparted by universities, mentors, and previous companies can cause clashes as projects grow in complexity. Luckily, effective technical training offers an opportunity to mend the divide.

Will Aja

Adherence to a set of standards and design principles is often the foundation of success for any project. Standards and design principles help keep a project organized and on track. They also make it easier to understand other people’s work, and to work with others as a cohesive team. In a utopian setting, everyone would come prepared with the same standards and design principles, but this is hardly the case.

Universities, professors, previous companies, mentors, project specific events, and experiences all shape how people approach problems, code, and documentation. Although personal styles and approaches are prevalent in every project, having a foundational set of standards can help avoid design issues as a project develops and grows in complexity.

Training is one of the most valuable tools to help teach this foundation. Training can help familiarize trainees with specific technologies, design tools, and regulatory standards. Typically, we use our training for recent college graduates to help them understand software design as it relates to automation. They learn about specific platforms and their associated design software. They also learn about how different pieces of automation come together to form a cohesive automation system. This is also a great opportunity to have them engage in test projects and practice with example documentation.

However, underneath this technical training is a layer of standards. Training is a great chance to help define and utilize the standards your organization uses to approach projects. Excellent trainers will help guide trainees through exercises while helping them rely on company and group standards to complete problems. One of the most important approaches in this part of training is to not mark something as wrong if the exercise is successful but not completed according to the correct standard. Instead, they should show alternate solutions that comply with your standards. This helps reinforce something was done correctly, but there are alternate ways to do it that will make them more successful on projects in the future.

Another value of training is helping to lessen the learning curve that comes with project and site work. We have a fairly lengthy training program that includes example projects and quality training that aims to provide trainees with a more realistic look at what projects might be, and what issues will be encountered at a site. These issues require them to interact with senior members of our team to learn the different assistance channels they have inside our company and where they can go for help. Our senior members also push them to work out problems on their own when there are valuable lessons to be learned while working toward the solution.

Training should also be looked at as a living entity, rather than a static program. As technologies change, new approaches are discovered, and new lessons are learned. The training should be updated to reflect this. This is especially true in the case of any regulatory changes and updates. As these changes are made, it is important to retrain existing employees on the changes as well. This can go hand in hand with additional training opportunities like advanced platform or new platform training.

Training is an important part of every organization and can help prepare employees for the different obstacles they will encounter. It can help set and define standards, and will make projects run more smoothly and effectively in the future. Regardless of experience level, training programs should be looked at as a valuable asset. As our Industry continues to shift and newer generations of engineers join the ranks training is a way to preserve the knowledge and experience of those before us, building a foundation based on the new and developing standards for today.

Will Aja is VP of Process Controls at Catalyx and is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA).